The government has confirmed that all nursing students in England will receive at least £5,000 a year to help with living costs from next academic year. 

The grant will not need to be repaid and will be supplemented by up to £3,000 extra for students entering specialties that struggle to recruit, such as mental health. 

The announcement has been made ahead of the UCAS deadline for university applications on 15 January, something the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) requested in the run-up to the general election. 

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general Secretary of the RCN, said: “With tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs, serious measures are needed. This grant is a first victory for the campaign that our student nurses are running. The announcement will hopefully encourage more people to apply to a nursing degree by the mid-January deadline.”

RCN student members have been campaigning for more funding after the bursary, which covered university tuition fees and provided mean-tested maintenance support, was scrapped in 2016.

Despite this, a recent report by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has shown there has been an increase in registration for nursing and midwifery.

The MNC report shows the number of professionals trained in the UK and registered to work in nursing and midwifery has risen from 591,894 to 596,906 – an increase of 5,012 (0.85%) – between 1 April and 30 September this year.

Commenting on the NMC results, Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, said: “The more nurses and midwives on the register the merrier. But while it’s good to see more home-grown recruits entering the profession via the training routes, the rise still leaves the NHS way short of what’s needed.”

She added: “With Brexit dominating the domestic agenda, the numbers from European countries wanting to work here continue to decline. As EU staff understandably turn their backs on the UK, the NHS has become heavily reliant on nurses from elsewhere in the world. That’s why it’s so important that the government not only invests in a future UK workforce but also ensures any changes to the immigration system don’t deter the very health workers the NHS so desperately needs.”